NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas (BP) — Healing has just begun at First Baptist Church of New Braunfels, Texas, pastor Brad McLean told the congregation April 2 in the first Sunday worship service since the loss of 13 members in a bus accident days earlier.
“We gather as a church family who has suffered the loss of 13 of our family members, and so we gather with a heavy heart this morning,” McLean said during the service, according to the church’s April 3 press release. “It is important for us to recognize that our pain is real, our loss is real, our grief is real, and as a church family we will have to work through these losses together. It will not be done in one Sunday. It will not be done after one week of memorial services — it will take time.”
The pastor, who also serves as a trustee for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, has the task of shepherding the congregation of more than 500 in the aftermath of the March 29 tragedy in Concan. Only one passenger of the church bus, 64-year-old Rose Mary Harris of New Braunfels, survived the wreck. She is still hospitalized at Antonio Military Medical Center in San Antonio.
The bus passengers were returning from an annual senior choir retreat at Alto Frio Baptist Encampment in Leakey when a pickup truck crossed the center line on Highway 83 in a curve, state troopers said, and struck the bus head-on about two hours from the church. A total of 65 First Baptist members attended the retreat, McLean told NBC affiliate KXAN-TV in Austin, but some drove their own vehicles to the event.
The driver of the pick-up truck involved in the accident, 20-year-old Jack Dillon Young of Leakey, is hospitalized at University Hospital.
“Even as our families are mourning the loss of their loved ones, many have expressed that they are praying for the driver of the truck involved in the crash,” McLean said. “God’s grace is for each one of us, and our church family extends our prayers to the driver and his family at this difficult time.”
A witness to the accident told the Associated Press that Young said he was texting before hitting the bus head-on. But the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigating the crash has not confirmed the cause.
The NTSB plans to complete the on-scene investigation by the week of April 9, but the fact-finding phase will continue.
“A preliminary report will be issued in approximately a month,” the NTSB tweeted. “It will not include analysis or a probable cause.”
Several media outlets attended Sunday’s service and interviewed various members, news reports show. The pastor said in a release to the media that the ensuing funerals and memorials would be closed to the media.
“We ask that media respect the sanctity of the memorial services and the privacy of our church family while they are grieving,” McLean said in the press release. “Our priority at this time is to comfort our grieving families and glorify God.”
First Baptist Church has established a Tragedy Relief Fund for the families of those killed in the crash. Donations can be made online at http://www.fbcnb.org/. Members of the public who want to express their sympathies, volunteer, or donate food are encouraged to utilize the message board on the church’s website.